Some months ago I had the great pleasure of adding OSINT godfather Robert David Steele as a LinkedIn contact. We’ve progressed from that to occasional phone calls and regular emails, pointing out interesting technology and events to each other.
NATO 4.0: Key Challenges AND Solutions was published with this short note, asking for broad consideration of the future of an OSINT agency, with NATO [and SOCOM] being a better home for it than the U.S. intelligence community.
Dear old friend or colleague,
I turn 61 this month — what an interesting 20 years it has been. Below is a post that I have thought about for some time.
I am quite certain that if General Breedlove and Admiral McRaven were to be properly briefed, that we could get the Open Source Agency and with it, funding for two Multinational Decision Support Centres as mentioned in the article.
As we all know I have no money, no power, and no influence — so I leave it to those of you who might wish to stir the pot, to make something of this little post of mine. I have in mind the southern tip of Italy, so we can sail up either coast.
I agree with Robert in that I think there will be an OSINT agency functionality as he described, but I disagree that such an animal will be monolithic, funded, or even sanctioned. Here is my reasoning.
Looking at the problem from a very deep level, we face climate change, peak oil, and a financial sector which depends on compound interest, which simply and completely ceases to exist in a world with declining liquid fuel supplies(!) Right now the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the western world’s confusion over Syria look like American imperial decay, and they are, but there are deeper issues which are going to accelerate this. NATO is similarly afflicted.
We already have sequestration biting into our military spending. We typically cut 25% to 35% when we finish a war and we this is before we factor in the three overwhelming drivers I cited in the prior paragraph. We have 1,600 infosec contractors that sprang up around the beltway as described in Top Secret America. Attempting to create a new agency using more efficient OSINT methods would be treated like a late deployed lifeboat from the Titanic, overloaded with panicked passengers, then swamped and sank by those who didn’t make the cut.
I think everyone should read Why Have An Intelligence Community When AIPAC Knows Better? We have seventeen agencies that are supposed to make sense of the world to support policy decisions, but Israel’s lobbying arm can override their collective wisdom. This is the most glaring example of corruption at work, but at a deeper level in American society our government has been captured by corporations, and it no longer works for citizens, except as a secondary effect to serving its true constituency. Corporations don’t have children and wish for grandchildren, and they don’t retire, so long term planning in a citizen-centric fashion is not their forte. An accurate assessment of the world would likely precipitate a “HOLY SHIT!” response from the general public, and an OSINT agency would by definition be transparent enough that it would provide such assessment.
So for many and various reasons, I don’t think a centralized effort is going to work. I do think that the function is coming together, it’s just happening in a messy, distributed fashion.
I have been looking at foreign policy oriented hive minds for the last six months or so. Anonymous drove the hive mind concept to new levels, but people have been forming group minds for a long time. There are a lot of these things out there and the diversity and low barrier to entry keep them from being subject to the groupthink endemic in corporate funded formal think tanks with full time employees. These groups use whatever quality information they can get, de facto pursuing an OSINT strategy.
The world frets about Edward Snowden’s revelation of PRISM, but I see the hazard differently. Recording everything is a problem in some ways, but the NSA has little ability to make sense of what they have. I go about rearranging the world as I see fit, and all that is required is some free software, an $8/month VPS, and some occasional public theater. The situationalists were entirely correct; the spectacle is infinitely adjustable for those who can grasp it.
America’s two decades as the sole surviving superpower in a unipolar world are coming to an end. Muddled and multifaceted are the watchwords going forward, and we’ll see a plethora of attempts to make sense of it all, but they’ll be close to the action and tightly integrated with efforts to make changes. Call it quantum intelligence; you can’t measure something in a rapidly changing world like this without prodding it to see how it reacts.
ROBERT STEELE: I do not disagree with Brother Neal. My life since 1988 has been dedicated to public intelligence in the public interest — it was in 1988 that I understood that the US secret intelligence community was not at all relevant to providing ethical evidence-based decision-support to anybody. I think in complex terms — I see the OSA as funded because the MAJORITY of those serving in the US Government are ethical decent human beings, and I even include a number of our flag officer — General Breedlove and Admiral McRaven, for example, have their ethics shoulder patch — AND developing spontaneously within civil society.
Hence, at the same time, it is clear to me that the decentralized process that Neal describes is moving forward at warp speed. What Crisis Mappers has done with open source humanitarian technologies and volunteers and millions of observers in varied diasporas who can translate and post SMS and twitter to a common map, is nothing short of the living world brain maturing. Put bluntly, Crisis Mappers — and Corruption Mappers if they spin this up as I have suggested to Lawrence Lessig and Patrick Meiers — are vastly more useful to the public interest than NSA. At some point public intelligence is going to buy most — not all — of secret intelligence and what is called deep secrecy, which is the foundation for banking and other cabals (defense, energy, health, prisons, etcetera) co-optation via corruption of government at every level across every function. I reserve an absolute respect for creating a serious counterintelligence service that is totally secret and totally ruthless against all enemies to the Constitution, domestic being the worst by far.
It is my hope that between now and 2020 reality will have a say in how the USA trains, equips, and organizing the government that is supposed to be Of, By, and For We the People. My vision will be implemented faster — saving millions of lives and trillions in money — if there is a modicum of collaboration from within the US and European government. It breaks my heart to have known all of this in 1992 and to be ignored by my own government — and particularly by the Director of National Intelligence, a technocrat who has lost sight of intelligence as a craft and a calling. I stand for the truth at any cost lowering all other costs. I am not going to lower my standards. Anyone interested in doing the right thing, I am unemployed and eager to work in the public interest.
Robert David STEELE Vivas